A Strange Tangle of Legs

harvestmen mating

These two harvestmen might look as though they are engaged in a deathmatch, but they are actually mating. So call it a “lifematch.”

Coming up with a title for this post was difficult. I was going to go a bit off-color, but then I reminded myself of the subject. The main problem wasn’t so much what is happening (arachnid sex!) in the photo, but rather my initial impression of the actual scene. Let me preface the following by saying, I had never seen harvestmen doing this before (and I don’t think since, come to think of it). As I watched the scene develop ā€“ on a boulder, for all to see, as though in an open arena ā€“ my face scrunched slowly; a shudder in my spine waited impatiently to shake. I was imagining that I was witnessing daddy long-legs cannibalism. But my face relaxed, and I never got to release that shudder, because the lifeless corpse I was expecting did not materialize. I was confused at first, but when the two harvestmen disengaged, leaving peaceably in opposite directions, the light bulb went on. All of a sudden it was all very…quick and easy.

So it’s hard to make jokes about sex with the specter of violence floating in the mind. I suppose if I witness this behavior more often, I won’t have that compunction of conflation. It might take a while though; I photographed a similar-looking spider-coupling some time after this, and my initial reaction was the same: Somebody’s in a world of hurt. And then it was, Huh, I guess not. It just goes to show that bugs are strange when you’re a stranger, too.

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